U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., held a conference call this afternoon with various media outlets to briefly discuss the details of the Coronavirus Relief Bill passed by Congress. According to Dingell, the $2 trillion would be sectioned off into seven main categories: individual, small businesses, large businesses/corporations, hospitals and public health, local and state governments, federal safety net and education. 

Dingell said the bill will hopefully boost the economy and keep the workforce intact. 

“My prayer is at the end of this they’re going to have jobs to go back to,” Dingell said. “That’s one of the things we worked really hard to get into this bill, that any help was tied into protecting the workers.”

Dingell highlighted some of the areas the bill focuses on and said it will boost supplies for personal protection equipment, which includes masks and gloves. 

“(The bill) provides direct aid to the healthcare institutions, it boosts supplies of the personal protection equipment in critical medical care,” Dingell said. 

The bill will also supply funding for both small and large businesses. Dingell emphasized how important funding for the auto industry would be, saying that there are roughly 17 million jobs directly connected to the auto industry. 

Dingell likened the global pandemic to “an invisible enemy” and said this bill will hopefully give them enough for their “arsenal.”

“We’re at war … with an invisible enemy, and we don’t have enough tools in our arsenal,” Dingell said. “This bill is going to get us there and if it’s not enough, we’re going to have to do more. But we need to give people hope. We need to put stimulus into the economy.”

Dingell emphasized how dependent America is on getting medicine and medical supplies from China. She said she hopes that there is some type of investment to change this dependency.

“We need a massive infrastructure bill,” Dingell said. “Hopefully, when we come out of this we’re going to invest in what we need to invest in — at the same time, we’re going to be creating jobs which ultimately make our economy stronger. We’ll put more money in and we’ll create more revenue.”

Dingell urged everyone to follow Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s call to “stay home and stay safe,” and to use technology to remain in contact with others during this time. 

“We got to do what we got to do which is stay home,” Dingell said. “(But) we have to remain in contact and check in with each other. We have to stay together as a community and if we stay together as a community, we’re going to get through this.”

One reporter asked about unemployment benefits for the self-employed since many have had their claims rejected. According to NPR, the new bill creates a temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that will serve through the end of the year. 

Dingell responded that she was unsure if unemployment claims will now be automatically reviewed. 

“This legislation is dealing with people directly impacted by coronavirus,” Dingell said. “If they have lost their job or are not getting income related to the coronavirus, they should, I hate to say this, reapply. If they are having problems, my office is open seven days a week.”

WXYZ-TV news reporter Jim Kiertzner asked Dingell about President Donald Trump’s tweets directing criticism at General Motors and Ford Motor Company.

“He’s going after General Motors and Ford for not wrapping up production of ventilators, of masks and so on,” Kiertzner said. 

Dingell replied that she has also read the tweets, but would prefer to deal with the pandemic over the politics. 

“I have stayed on top of this issue from day one,” Dingell said. “We need all the help we can get in Michigan. We’re going to be the epicenter. We’re going to be like New York, faster than any of us wants to think about it. Nobody wants to get into a pissing contest with the president, we need his leadership right now.”

Dingell said she believed the large three auto companies — Ford, Chrysler and GM — are doing what they can to provide ventilators, but she said some type of federal “management” is necessary. 

MediaNews Group journalist Dave Herndon asked Dingell if there was a plan for those still in school, K-12 specifically. 

“Governor Whitmer was talking about the possibility of the school year being over in Michigan, I was wondering, is there something that the Congress is working on?” Herndon asked. 

Dingell replied that though there are currently no plans on a national level because education is largely a state issue, the schools will only reopen when it is completely safe to do so, regardless of the timeline. 

“We probably won’t hit an apex in Michigan for two to three weeks,” Dingell said. “I don’t know when we’re going to reopen. We’ll open the schools when it’s safe to open the schools. The first priority right now is to keep people safe and that means not gathering in large groups, and quite frankly I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I think it’s pretty likely that we will not open schools until the fall.”

Daily Staff Reporter Alyssa McMurtry can be reached at amcmurt@umich.edu

 

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